DEAR JOAN: I live in a residential area of Hayward. I purchased a birdbath a while ago, and sometimes I wondered why it got so dirty. Lately I noticed food debris in the water.
I immediately suspected that a raccoon must be washing its food in the birdbath, but I never saw any raccoon prints around the bath. I mentioned this to a neighbor and he started laughing. He had a birdbath that was attracting a crow, which washed its food in the bath.
He recently got rid of his birdbath because of the mess the crow made, so now they are coming to my yard!
I put some bamboo poles up around the birdbath, and I’ve hung colorful ribbons from the poles. I also put a solar fountain in the bath. None of these ideas have stopped the crow completely, although it’s slowed him down.
I’ve been thinking of getting an air horn, which I’m hoping might scare the crow away for good. By the way, there are quite a few crows in this neighborhood suddenly.
Of course, all of my anti-crow procedures are also scaring away the regular birds that I wanted to use the birdbath. What do you suggest for my anti-crow activities?
Joan Fosdick, Hayward
DEAR JOAN: You aren’t succeeding in scaring off the crow, but you are getting perilously close to making a powerful enemy of that crow, its family and future generations.
Crows are part of the corvid family and are among the most intelligent of all the birds. They not only have figured out ways to use rudimentary tools, but they also have the ability to remember and recognize human faces. If that doesn’t give you pause, consider that crows apparently have a way of communicating those faces to other crows, knowledge that is passed down without spoken word to future generations.
If you do enough to annoy the crow, it’s going to retaliate, and then it’s going to share some sort of a bird version of your mugshot to other crows, who will then despise you, too.
So before you resort to air horns and concertina wire, think carefully. Do you really want angry crows dive bombing you, dogging your every step and leaving threatening calling cards on your newly washed car? I think not. Crows are just doing what comes naturally to them, softening their food or, just as likely, soaking up water to take to their newly hatched offspring. They don’t see the harm that you do.
As you’ve discovered, driving off crows usually means driving off the birds that don’t hold grudges. You can, however, take care of your crow problems and reclaim a cleaner birdbath with one simple solution.
Get a fake crow and, under cover of darkness, hang it upside down where the crows will likely see it at first light. They will then have a memorial service for their fallen comrade (I’m not joking) and then they’ll get out of Dodge, sensing that your yard is not a safe place for them to linger.
It’s important that the crows don’t see you putting out the “dead” bird or you’ll just move even higher on their to-doo-doo list. You want them to associate the bad vibes with the property, not its owner. Other birds will be able to bathe in peace.
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